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How Imran Khan became the secret weapon behind the year's biggest tech IPO


Snap Inc. chief strategy officer, Imran Khan, takes a photograph on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while waiting for Snap Inc. to post their IPO in New York, U.S., March 2, 2017.

Brendan McDermid | Reuters

Snap Inc. chief strategy officer, Imran Khan, takes a photograph on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) while waiting for Snap Inc. to post their IPO in New York, U.S., March 2, 2017.

Hope Cochran, who would meet Khan years later, did notice something a little deceptive about Khan — his smile.

“I think of like this silly grin on his face constantly. He looks like he’s up to something,” said Cochran, then chief financial officer at King Digital. “He brings a levity to the situation. He has a great strategic view on a situation. He’s very good at reading a room and understanding the dynamics of the room. That smile — it’s a little misleading because he has a lot of insight.”

Khan helped Cochran take King Digital, maker of Candy Crush Saga, public in the spring of 2014, a deal that did not go smoothly: Shares plunged on their first day of trading. But Khan was unshakeable, said Cochran, now a venture capitalist at Madrona Venture Group.

“We were very busy and focused. My memory is a lot of late nights in the offices working on the process of going public,” Cochran said. “I remember a fun moment, when we flew into Frankfurt, we all took a red-eye to get there. He took a red-eye from Asia, I think. He ran in and was all rumpled and ruffled, he had a small duffel bag. And within minutes he was transformed into the investment banker he needed to be. And he had more energy than I’ve ever seen that day. He was able to rise to any occasion.”

That’s important because he was about to hit the most crucial point in his career: leading Alibaba’s Autumn 2014 IPO, the biggest IPO ever in the world. Cochran said that though Khan was busy during this time, he always made the time to chat by phone.

Soon after, Snap snared Khan from Credit Suisse, a risky move for someone at the height of their career in investment banking, Cochran said. Snap went public earlier this month, in the biggest tech IPO since Alibaba.

Durney said he’s not surprised that Khan ended up at a start-up like Snap, one that has “real juice.” While not every start-up has a chief strategy officer, in this case, it’s apt.

“There are a number of people in banking that wouldn’t get Snapchat,” Durney said. “If you look at how the media world has evolved over time, they are at the forefront of it. I think that fits with the way he thought more generally, focusing on where the world is going.”



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